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With a majority of the global population reeling under severe restrictions on their movements in several countries, the rapidly growing fitness industry has come to a screeching halt. Norms of physical distancing around the world, more emphasis on personal hygiene and widespread lockdowns have meant people have not been able to pursue their favourite physical activities.

Whether it was your local Crossfit box, your neighbourhood gym or the yoga or pilates studio you used to frequent, they have all been asked to shut down as a crowded fitness centre is one of the places that may have a high chance of infection as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc. You may carry your own towels and yoga mats to the class, or even wash your hands frequently, but that is not enough to maintain the hygiene standards expected from people nowadays.

To ensure proper physical distancing measures are implemented everywhere, any form of mass gathering is discouraged - which also rules out working out or even exercising together as a group at a community park. But with government health bodies encouraging people to move around, eat and drink healthy and get regular exercise to build or boost immunity to battle such a dangerous disease, how does one go about it?

Working out during lockdown is greatly encouraged, by making some space within the confines of your own home and getting in bodyweight exercises and other movements. But those not predisposed to working out in a gym or used to the intense physical movements that require correct form and technique, can always consider spending time doing household chores.

  1. Benefits of doing housework as physical activity
  2. Household chores as a form of exercise
  3. Can housework replace exercise?

Normally our busy schedules (what with long hours in the office coupled with busy social lives) do not leave much room for a daily dose of exercise. Doing housework can be one effective way to get some kind of physical activity during the course of a day.

This is especially true during a lockdown, or while you are avoiding crowded public spaces: housework can offer a way to get some exercise while checking those chores off your list.

While some may dismiss them outright as boring and mundane activities, housework can be strenuous as well as tiring - as with formal exercise, how much you do and how many calories you burn depends on your individual fitness level.

Performing household chores can be as beneficial as going to a gym, simply because turning up to the gym isn’t a guarantee for losing calories! Various studies have pointed towards the effectiveness of doing housework as a form of exercise, as it doesn’t require any additional time to be taken out of one’s daily schedule.

Doctors and experts now believe that relatively mild physical activity like housework can be beneficial towards improving your fitness levels, and if you can add 30-45 minutes of traditional workout to your housework schedule, it can make it doubly effective.

It is also estimated that people are more likely to perform daily household chores than turn up to the gym on most days of the week, making it a more binding commitment towards fitness.

Housework can be surprisingly demanding on the body. According to the Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide, about 30 minutes of vacuuming or sweeping the floors can burn up to 130 calories, which may seem less in comparison to cycling on a stationary bike for the same amount of time, which can burn nearly 400 calories.

However, much like more intense workouts are beneficial towards greater calorie burn and weight loss, performing housework with more intensity can also prove to be just as physically challenging. According to CalorieLab, an average person can burn nearly 220 calories in 30 minutes of simple housework, which is equivalent to an intense aerobics class.

By some estimates, an hour of doing laundry by hand can be equivalent to about 40 minutes of lifting weights, while mopping floors - another strenuous activity - can burn as many calories as 45 minutes of swimming.

Some household chores that can be performed instead of conventional physical activities include:

  • Mopping the floor
  • Washing the car
  • Scrubbing the floor/bathroom
  • Walking to get essential supplies like groceries, etc.
  • Vacuuming/Sweeping
  • Dusting
  • Ironing
  • Laundry by hand
  • Making the bed

Tips: While different forms of housework themselves can be physically challenging, one can make them even more strenuous by adding different kinds of physical movements while doing them. For instance, keeping the stomach tightened while performing household chores, stretching a little bit extra to get the muscles in the body to move to their limits, keeping the back straight while bending to do laundry, washing dishes, cleaning the floors can make it that much more challenging.

Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 must strive to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, which roughly translates to about 30 minutes in a day, according to the World Health Organization. Housework, like sweeping or vacuuming the floors, washing dishes by hand or dusting, washing your car, mowing the lawn, or doing laundry by hand, may appear to be strenuous, but estimates show they can't completely replace running, brisk walking or cycling.

According to a study undertaken by researchers at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, domestic physical activity accounted for over 35% of the moderate to vigorous physical activity recommendations, but it didn't have any effect on achieving leanness or weight loss. Because the Ulster University study attempted to correlate the intensity of housework with the body mass index of people (BMI is a ratio of weight to height), it did not take into account people’s daily calorie intake or the amount of activity based on the individual’s physical health.

The UK’s National Health Service, however, says that housework cannot be considered completely ineffective. Any kind of physical activity is better than not doing anything at all, and especially in times of countrywide lockdowns, physical activities have become restricted to tasks that can primarily be performed indoors. Adding household duties to your daily schedule not only takes care of your demands for physical activity, but it also makes you look after your own space better, and be more conscious about maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in your own personal space.

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